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Italy: Prosecutors Investigate Quake Damage with a View to Charges

(Apr. 16, 2009) The Public Prosecutor's Office in Italy has begun investigation into the damage that resulted from the April 2009 earthquake, in which nearly 300 people died and there was a great deal of damage to structures. The concern is that some of the buildings that collapsed on victims might have been made using second-rate materials, such as concrete that included beach sand. When sand with high salt content is used in construction, steel supports can be rusted and corroded, which makes foundations weak and is a threat to safety. Attention will also be paid to whether anti-seismic regulations were followed in all cases. (Paola Totaro, Arrests Likely as Investigation into Italy Quake Begins, SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, Apr. 13, 2009, available at

Adriano Rossini, the head of the Public Prosecutor's Office, said at a press conference on April 11 that there would probably “not only be investigations but undoubtedly arrests, too.” (Id.) He went on to say that the use of marine sand was confirmed in at least one case. Italian police have begun removing bricks, mortar, and parts of walls from collapsed structures to be tested as evidence. The investigation will be hindered somewhat due to the collapse of the land registration office in the town of L'Aquila, where building documentation was stored for much of the affected area. One structure that will be particularly evaluated is the L'Aquila San Salvatore Hospital, which was almost new before the quake; 90 percent of the building became unusable within hours of the event. (Id.)

Rossini summarized the situation, stating:

I want to investigate this to the very bottom … I want to know why these buildings came down and why, as a consequence, all these people died. We want to know if this happened because of the quake or if the little hands of men were involved, men who built badly or used bad materials or who speculated or who used cement and concrete that could never have held. We will proceed with all the rigour that this utterly unsustainable situation requires. (Id.)